If you’ve been performing ab crunches night and day without achieving the six-pack of your dreams, it’s time to consider a different approach and a little bit of science when it comes to the most effective ab exercises.
First, the science: The American Council on Exercise partnered with San Diego State University researchers to conduct a study examining the effectiveness of 13 abdominal exercises. The exercises sound like a list of your weekly ab exercises: crunches, bicycles and reverse crunches. They also threw in ab exercises using workout machines like the Ab Rocker and the Torso Track. Test subjects were asked to perform the exercises and special machines measured how hard the muscles were working during the exercise.
When the results were tabulated, the top three finishers were the bicycle, the captain’s chair and crunches on an exercise ball.
Ab Exercises: Performance Tips
Here are some technique tips for each effective exercise.
The bicycle is performed with your back on the ground, legs extended at a 45-degree angle away from the floor and your head lifted and cradled in your hands. Twist to your left side while bringing your left knee toward your elbow. Reverse the motion to bring your left elbow toward your right knee. Keep twisting to perform this highly effective ab exercise.
The captain’s chair exercise requires a piece of gym equipment of the same name. The equipment features two padded arms and is very tall, which allows your legs to dangle. Place your back as straight as possible against the machine with your arms supported. Your legs should be hanging freely. Slowly lift your knees toward your chest to work your abdominal muscles. You can try a variety of different positions, from lifting your knees to your right and left sides to lifting your straight legs forward in a pike position.
Crunches on an exercise ball add an extra-challenging element of instability. Because your abdominal muscles are responsible for maintaining balance, crunches are made that much harder on an exercise ball. Place your back on the exercise ball with your feet on the ground, hands behind your head. Inhale and exhale as you crunch up, focusing on working your abdominal muscles as you do. Slowly lower your head and repeat 10 to 12 times. Rest for 30 seconds to one minute and repeat for two additional sets.
Ab Exercises: Less-Effective Moves
In terms of overall effectiveness, the traditional crunch came in 11 out of 13. The least effective exercise was the Ab Rocker, a machine that has a padded headrest and rails where you place your arms as you crunch upward. This machine was found to be 80 percent less effective than the traditional crunch.
The study’s authors concluded you don’t have to have a lot of expensive gym equipment or even any equipment at all to perform effective abdominal exercises. While you’re at it, remember you must lose body fat to reveal toned abdominals. Include cardio training sessions and a healthy diet in your tight-abs plan for maximum results.
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